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Improving Productivity by Improving Lighting

Improving Productivity by Improving Lighting
Lightbulb

    We all know that our surroundings affect our ability to get work done, from that irritating buzzing from the next cubicle over to the uncomfortable chair causing our back pain. But what about lighting? Has the flicker of fluorescent lighting finally gotten to you?

    There are plenty of problems attributed to lighting, from migraines to eye strain. On top of the physical issues, though, depending on the type of lighting in your work area, you may be running into some mental issues as well.

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    For me, insufficient lighting is practically a guarantee that I’m not going to be productive. I may even nod off for a while. In order to get my work done, I have to have some decent lighting! Even a minor change in the lights in my workspace have improved my productivity enormously, making it easier for me to focus on my work, and even to see it.

    Choosing the right lighting

    Picking out light bulbs can be just as important as picking out a comfortable chair. You have to take into account glare from your computer screen, environmental impact and cost, as well as what level of lighting you work best in. And lighting doesn’t just affect your mood at work. Many people subconsciously choose home lighting that doesn’t remind them of their work environment.

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    Most office buildings rely on light bulbs in the 6500K range, or about the same lighting level as daylight. I use 6500K light bulbs in my home office as well — they’re available just about everywhere, although brands seem to pick and choose whether to label their bulbs as ‘daylight’ or ‘6500K.’ I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep myself on track with better lighting — in the past I’ve relied on an open window augmented by a desk lamp with a fairly weak light bulb.

    Lighting designers routinely recommend that desk workers rely on two light sources for their offices: a general indirect lighting source to generally brighten up a room and “task lighting,” a small direct light source that can be focused on the paper you’re reading or another task at hand. While fluorescents and other options are fine for general illumination, but halogen bulbs are better for detail work, because halogen renders colors with a clarity that other types of lighting often lack.

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    Ideas for making the switch

    To provide examples of improvements you can make to your office lighting, we have three lighting makeovers. You can draw ideas from these situations, especially if you don’t have the option of finding a lighting designer for your work space.

    Steve works in an office in an older building. He can see a window from his desk, but most of his lighting comes from the bevy of fluorescent panels installed in the drop ceiling. For Steve, the most crucial lighting issue is the glare on his monitor. Steve’s first step is turning off the fluorescents entirely. Because he’s in an older building, he may actually have more lighting than he needs, due to old school lighting designers’ good intentions to provide workers with as much light as possible. To replace the fluorescents, Steve brings in lamps, to provide indirect lighting. He also chooses to look for a daylight bulb to help him stay on track. He adds a goose neck lamp that he can redirect to whichever task he’s focused on.

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    James works in a studio and, as an artist, needs more control over his lighting than Steve does. While he’s looked into dimmer switches and related options, James has decided that he wants multiple fixtures for finer control. For the main light source in the room, he chooses a fluorescent bulb of the ‘natural color’ variety — a bit softer than daylight but a good bulb for color rendition, a key factor for an artist. James also invests in several small lamps that he can easily manipulate, choosing halogen bulbs so that he can bring as much light to bear on his work as necessary.

    George works in his home office, in his basement. He rarely gets a chance to see sunlight during his work day and wants to use daylight bulbs to bring brightness into his work space. However, he’s also concerned about saving money on his electric bill. George opts for compact fluorescent bulbs, which have a higher initial cost but are more efficient than the incandescent and fluorescent bulbs George was considering. That efficiency means a lower electricity bill for George. He finds 6500K, or daylight, compact fluorescent bulbs that work with three-way lamps — they offer up three different settings so that George can control his light source to match what he’s doing.

    Beyond examples

    These three work areas were simple samples of a few changes that can be made to your work area. Consider lighting as another facet of ergonomics, and you may even be able to convince a manager to make the changes for you. Improvements don’t need to be limited to work areas, either. Consider improving the mood in the relaxing areas of your home, such as your bedroom, just by changing out that daylight light bulb for something more soothing.

    There are thousands of lighting combinations available, even for the amateur lighting designer. You may have to try out a couple to find that particular combination that improves your personal productivity. I know from experience, however, that even a little change can be well worth the effort. Even changing a single light bulb can relieve eye strain, save money and generally make it easier to work.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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